Sunday, 30 September 2012

Jumping into autumn

The summer is almost over with more and more rainy days. Summer, don't go! Yesterday, we were lucky enough to enjoy a hot, sunny day and it was just perfect for the photo shoot.

I finished this jumpsuit almost immediately after receiving the Home Sewn book. The pattern comes in medium size only: bust 95cm, waist: 78cm, hips 106 cm. Suggested fabric: "one-stretch knit fabric that can be left raw". The quantity recommended by the designer is 3m x 150cm. I managed to fit everything into 250x150cm, sacrificing the belt ;( The making of the jumpsuit went smoothly and I enjoyed working with the pattern immensely. My favorite part was inserting the bias tape!

Fabric: 2.5m knit jersey purchased at Jo-Ann during my last trip to the US. I scored it for $4/yard! 
Notions: 1.5m of knit bias tape, 50cm of black elastic band
Cost: $14
Modifications: no changes to the singlet. The pants were a bit big for me so I reduced them by 7cm from each side starting at mid-thigh all the way to the top.  

The original design includes a three-meter tie which I found such a cool detail! When cutting the fabric, I had to be economical. Instead, I inserted a piece of elastic band. 

If I had to use this patten again, I'd play with the width of the pants but also I might try to convert it into a maxi dress! A singlet pattern can also easily be used to create lots of funky tank tops. Working with knits has become my latest obsession and with the abundance of knit fabric in the shops for the colder season, there's lots of room for imagination!

Verdict: I will use this pattern a lot to create various basics. If you have not seen my post where I reviewed the book, I repeat again: Home Sewn contains lots of pretty easy-to-make, yet fresh and modern patterns suitable for a cute everyday wardrobe.

Do you also like sewing with knits?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Taking a break!

Nothing sewing-related to report today (although I've got a couple of finished garments to share). From today, I am officially on a break from my office job until the end of November!!! Instead of going into too many details about how hard the last nine months had been for me work-wise, I'd rather concentrate on the positive side of things. Being off work means that I'll be dedicating all of my free time to what I love the most - sewing, reading, traveling, enjoying life at its fullest!

From my trip to Kyoto last year

Monday, 24 September 2012

When it rains ...

The smell of autumn came with the rain, early yesterday morning. I was looking at the rain from the window and was listening to its whisperings, spellbound. I decided that it was a not-going-out-and-doing-whatever-you-want day. Here's the list of my heroic deeds:
  • Ate pizza for lunch and dinner
  • Read on the couch wrapped in the bath towel. (By the way, if you are a keen reader and want to share your favorite books, please join me on
  • Sewed a cover for the sewing machine and bin it because I did not like it
  • Skyped with friends while they had breakfast and I, my evening cup of tea
  • Watched a movie
Then I realized that my couture class with Susan Khalje is just around the corner (from October 8th!) and that students are asked to come with a fitted muslin. And, of course, I was not ready!

The pattern I'll be working with is from the September Burda edition

The challenge that I've set for myself during the workshop: learn from a professional how to work with silks. So let's see how it goes!

It's raining again today.... What are your favorite rainy-day activities?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


This month sees a new arrival to the family of independent pattern designers; welcome Deer&Doe and lovely Eléonor from Paris! Eléonor launched her first patten collection only last Monday and I could not help writing about it.

The collection is made up of five garments, divided into three levels of difficulty - beginner, intermediate & advanced - with the level being denoted by the color of the envelope which the pattern comes in. Don't you find the designs sooo French? :)

My absolute favorites are the unlined spring/autumn jacket, Pavotand the dress, Belladone.

All patterns include detailed explanations with step-by-step construction drawings.

What is more, Deer&Doe is an eco-friendly project! All patterns and instructions are made from recycled paper and the site itself is hosted by an environmentally-engaged company which uses 100% hydropower to generate electricity.

Don'w worry that the blog and patterns are in French. Eléonor is currently working on an English version of her blog and should provide English instructions as well (I am currently double-checking with her and update asap).

Do you like it?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A silk dress fit for a princess!

Every girl wants to be a princess sitting in a castle in a beautiful dress and waiting for her prince to come. As I grew up, I came to understand that such fairy-tales were nonsense (look at what happened to Kate Middleton), but a beautiful dress never did anyone any harm! A proper ‘princess dress’ should be made of gorgeous silks and flowing through the air.

Like many of you, silks inspire nothing but fear in me. In October, I’ll attend a week-long workshop with Susan Khalje and my main goal is to become friends with silks. But before the workshop, I intend to work on some garments and get used to these nasty creatures. During one of my recent trips, I acquired this beautiful crepe-de-chine with the idea of transforming it into a princess dress. Also, a friend’s wedding was approaching and so the pieces of my challenge came together. Now I only had to take it on!

This Burda dress was the winner of my ‘princess dress’ contest for many reasons. 1. I had always wanted to own a silk maxi dress. 2. Due to heart surgery in my childhood and a huge scar crossing half of my back, I was scared of dresses with open backs and hardly owned any. 3. Any princess would die for it!

Fabric: 3.5m of crepe-de-chine
Size: 36 for the top and 38 for the skirt
Cost: $18 (yesssss, I scored some great fabric on sale)
Modifications to pattern: none

What I learnt from this project: patience!I Besides spending two weeks to complete the dress, I discovered not only how to tame silks but also myself. But let’s start from the beginning!

Challenge #1: cutting on bias. Silk should not be cut folded in half, but as a single layer of fabric to prevent slippage or distortion. You can see from the technical drawing that the main skirt piece is quite large. None of the tables in my apartment is big enough for cutting, so I had to lay the fabric on the floor. Did I sweat or have cramps? Oh yes, I did! All of the pieces from the fashion fabric and lining were cut on the floor. Holy Moly! How happy I was when it was over!

Challenge #2: thread and needle. Most of the sources that I’d consulted before starting the project suggested using cotton or polyester thread for silks. But for some reason, none of it worked when I tested it on swatches of the fabric beforehand. Silk thread worked much better. The Mircotex needle which I used performed miracles; no complaints!

Challenge #3: assembly. I assembled the dress in two stages: the bust pieces, and the skirt with godet. Once the skirt had been sewn together and the godet attached to it, I let it hang on a mannequin for a day to stretch and adapt to its new shape. In fact, having read Marina’s article since, I should have let the skirt and the godet hang separately before assembling them. I will definitely do so next time.

Challenge #4: zipper. As a result of being lazy and not wanting to attach the zipper by hand,  I had to rip the seams and re-attach it three or four times. Bad idea! In some places, the fabric got stretched and puckered a little bit.

Another issue I faced with the zipper: a piece of fabric in the middle curls over and I have no idea why. I shortened the top of the skirt from both ends of the zipper, but the issue remains! Do you know what could have caused it?

You can see on this photo how the fabric curls over ;(
I picked black batiste as lining, which was one of the materials suggested by the experts. The end of the skirts were serged. I used three threads on my four-thread serger and the lower dial. This technique curled the hem and I achieved the desired ‘princess dress’ effect.  Since I don’t like wearing skirts too long, I made the dress so that it just reaches my ankles.

Lastly, when I tried to play around with the bust pieces, I came up with an alternative way of wearing the dress. Instead of tying the straps behind the neck, I let them go over my shoulders, cross over on the back and tie a knot in front.

New Look :P

Having conquered this challenge (despite a few hiccups along the way), I would say, sew with silks and make yourself princess dresses!

P.S.If you happen to be in New York mid-October and feel like going fabric shopping together, let me know! I could be fun!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Beading edge technology

Yves Saint Laurent's collection Winter '84-'85
A dream came true! As I mentioned in one of the previous posts, I was lucky enough to get in touch with Veronique who spent every evening of an entire week giving me private lessons in tambour embroidery

My main goal was to learn the maximum number of tambour embroidery techniques with a view to later integrating them into my future garments. Below, I have posted pictures featuring all the techniques I learnt. Unfortunately, I don't know their names in English since the lessons were in French and I am too lazy to spend time researching on the Internet. Hopefully the photos speak for themselves.

For those of you who don't know what tambour embroidery is, here is a little intro. Tambour embroidery, or la broderie de Lunéville (named after the town in France where a hook was first used to work with beads and sequins), is a type of embroidery done with a hook on a piece of fabric stretched on a frame. The embroiderer works on the wrong side of the fabric and the right side of the stitching is underneath. The stitches in tambour embroidery can be done with different types of thread - waxed cotton thread, twisted silk/polyester or metal thread. But tambour embroidery is mainly known for its techniques working with beads, sequins and rhinestones for haute couture. The most famous atelier (school) for tambour embroidery is Lesage, which was purchased by Chanel in 2002. 

One side of the fabric stretched on the wooden frame.
When you buy beads and sequins, they usually come threaded onto something called a pompon, which consists of 10 individual strands of thread tied together. On average, a pompon holds 10,000 sequins, or 1000-3000 beads depending on their size. When you begin embroidering a piece of fabric, you need to transfer the beads or sequins from the pompon onto a separate piece of working thread. 

One of the hardest things when embroidering with beads is that you don't really see them, unless you are working with transparent fabric like organza. 

Transferring beads to the working thread

 You can see the Atelier Lesage preparing for a Chanel show in the video below. 


I have to admit I was very lucky to have Veronique as a teacher. During the week of lessons, she taught me the basics and gave me as much information as possible to help me continue by myself in the future. At the end of our lessons, she treated me to a book about Lesage. I had no idea how valuable the book was! In turn, I want to treat you to some pics of gorgeous garments from the book.

Project for Jean-Louis Scherrer
Detail: Iris of Van Gogh,  Yves Saint Laurent, summer 1988
This entire garment took 600 hours of labor, 250,000 sequins in 22 colors, 200,000 beads and 250m of ribbon
Sorce: La Dulcie Vita
Personally, I find it hideous, but  in terms of craftsmanship it's a masterpiece! Jean-Paul Gaultier, winter 1989 
Detail from YSL's bolero (picture at the top of the page)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

'70s twist

Last month, I ordered three patterns from Style Arc: Jessica Dress, Danni Dolman and Layla Dress. And then a piece of fluoro 70's jersey knit from my stash was shouting, 'Pick me! Pick me!' In my head, the fabric matched the Jessica dress pattern perfectly and a minute later, I was ready to cut and slash and twist and sew!

Fabric: 1m80 of Jersey knit purchased in JoAnn during my trip to Minnesota
Size: 8
Cost: $15
Modifications to pattern: slightly shortened the ends of the "twist"

Before purchasing the patterns from StyleArc, I'd been hesitating for several days. The patterns they sell are size-specific instead of multi-size like most brands'. According to the size chart on StyleArc my upper body measurements are equivalent to a size 6, but my lower body measurements are a size 10! When facing such a choice, it's generally recommended to match the upper body as closely as possible to your real measurements, since the lower part of the pattern can be modified more easily. But I decided to go in between the two sizes and order the size 8. 

For this dress, I cut the skirt according to the size 8 pattern, which turned out to fit fine due to the stretch of the jersey fabric. For the bodice, if I had not shortened both ends of the twist, the neckline would have been super revealing! So by decreasing the length of the ends by 2 cm, I managed to keep my cleavage inside the dress.

Here I have tried to show you how almost perfectly I managed to match the stripes on the right side ;) Due to the original design of the skirt (four front tucks), it was difficult to make the stripes match along the left seam.

This dress has been promoted right away to my wardrobe favorites! I love the smoothness and lightness of the fabric against my body and the fact that it does not wrinkle. The fabric doesn't fray either, so the skirt and armholes are unhemmed.

A few more words about my experience with Style Arc... The pattern was hand drawn!!!! An envelope sent from Australia contained three A4 pockets, each of which included a thick sheet of paper with each pattern drafted by hand!!! I have no idea why Chloe does it manually as that seems to me like a hell of a lot of work, even if she has templates for each size and model in her shop! All of the patterns include seam allowance. Easy-to-follow, step-by-step drawings and explanations are printed on two additional A4 sheets. Another nice personal touch was that Chloe had glued a scrap of knit fabric as a suggestion.

Have your worked with Style Arc patterns?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sewing books: modern & retro styles

When I returned from my European holiday, two new sewing books were sitting on my desk: Home Sewn by New Zealand Fashion Museum and Gertie's New Book for Better sewing by Gretchen Hirsch. Whilst the latter is well-known and widely-discussed within the sewing community, the former probably remains unfamiliar to most. 

Home Sewn provides an insight into the history of home sewing in New Zealand and features prominent local designers. Various sections of the book explain the history of fashion in NZ, introduce local fashion designers and showcase some sewing techniques.

The transparent plastic cover protects the soft cover book. It looks classy, don't you think?
Dedicated to a new wave of fashion designers in New Zealand, the book features 10 young designers each of whom shared one pattern from their recent collection. Here are the links to the designers' websites: Company of StrangersCybeleKatie-Maree Cole, Lela JacobsPapercut PatternsStarfishTK Storetwenty-seven namesVaughan GeesonWORLD

No sewing book is complete without some explanation of sewing techniques 

This gorgeous jersey jumpsuit from TK Store caught my eye!

The only designer I'd heard of before I got the book. 
You can wear this dress in four different ways! The only problem: because of the dark color of fabric, it's impossible to see the lines on the garment

Love the print on this t-shirt

Most patterns shown in this book are quite easy to sew and suitable for beginners. If you are looking for a fresh and modern touch to your hand-made wardrobe, you will find lots of new additions: from skirts to trousers, from dresses to tops.

The verdict: this book is interesting, educational and definitely worth buying. We hear a lot about fashion from the US, Asia and Europe, but our attention turns rarely towards Australia and New Zealand. I find the attempt of the New Zealand Fashion Museum to promote local designers and shed the light into the country's fashion history remarkable. You can order it from Papercut Patterns website for NZ$45 + NZ$5 international shipping which converts to around €31.50 or $39.80 including shipping. Seriously, ladies, hurry up!

The second book needs less introduction. Many of us had been waiting for Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing since she announced it in 2011. Before I received the book, I got a sneak preview both from Gertie's blog and from bloggers in the US who bought it before me.

Because Gertie shares most of the garments on her blog, I just wanted to highlight my favorites which are now on my sewing 2012 list!

So pretty from the inside!

The Wiggle dress
OK, I am not a "retro" person, but I realized that my wardrobe lacks essential classics. Some people think that I dress like a teenage boy. With no prescribed dress code in my company, I come to the office in shorts/jeans and t-shirts almost every day. Until recently, I was never bothered about having a feminine look, but sewing has made me more and more aware of the beauty of a classic silhouette and simple lines. The styles featured in Gertie's book could not suit the purpose better.  

What is your style? Would you like to discover a new style for yourself?